Happy taking on edible straws business

Helen Willis displays Straw the Line NZ’s edible straws at St Clair Beach, Dunedin. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Helen Willis displays Straw the Line NZ’s edible straws at St Clair Beach, Dunedin. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Helen Willis is on a mission to save the planet "one slurp at a time".

Earlier this month, the Dunedin woman bought Straw the Line NZ — which makes and sells edible drinking straws for the hospitality and retail industries — and moved it to its new southern base.

The company was started by Auckland women Camilla Weinstein and Charlotte Downes in September 2019

Mrs Willis officially took the business over on April 1 — "I was holding my breath all the way to lunchtime thinking ‘goodness what is going to go wrong’, but no, we were all good," she said.

Wanting a new challenge, Mrs Willis saw the business advertised and inquired.

"I did my homework on it and the more I looked into it the more it appealed."

When she was at secondary school in Dunedin, Mrs Willis began working for McDonald's, a job she held for nearly 10 years, and rose up the ranks to manage the North Dunedin restaurant.

She left McDonald's to start a family and, since then, has held various roles working in events and sales.

Mrs Willis said her interest in one day wanting to own a business stemmed from time at McDonald's.

"They used to say you have ketchup in your veins, ketchup in your blood, and so I think I’ve always had that streak in me."

It was the environmentally conscious value of Straw the Line NZ that attracted Mrs Willis to purchase it.

She had made some environmental changes to her lifestyle, particularly limiting plastic in her household.

"I think consumers are too, we are all making small changes."

She said the impact of Covid-19 on businesses was something she considered when deciding whether to purchase it. .

"The figures had to stack up ... and they did," she said.

The Straw the Line NZ was stocked in New Zealand cafes, bars and retail stores.

With the Government recently announcing all plastic straws would be phased out by mid-2023, almost daily new clients were inquiring.

Asked what the straws tasted like, Mrs Willis admitted they were not great — "it’s a bit like pasta, but with no real flavour".

The main aim of making them edible was so if it ended up in the water and marine life ate it, it would be digestible and decompose.

"We aren’t saying eat your straw, but if it gets a bit soft on the end and you want to have a nibble, you can," she said.

While she was only three weeks in, she wanted to look after current customers and continue to grow before making any big plans.

"Eventually, I want to put my own mark on it," she said.

The first few weeks as owner had been really busy as she got used to its operations — "it’s been a lot of fun".

Mrs Willis hoped to get her family involved in Straw the Line NZ.

"My children have been very helpful already and I’m sure they’ll be only too happy to be helping out in the future," she said.

--  riley.kennedy@odt.co.nz


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